Anton Kirchhofer - Ringvorlesung Religion und Gesellschaft WiSe 2007-08

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Postsäkulare Perspektiven: Überlegungen zur 'paradoxen Säkularität' der (englischen) Literatur

---1. Zur Einstimmung: Tolle, lege, Mr. Betteredge !

  • Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone (1868), Chapter 1: Gabriel Betteredge, Butler, wird gebeten, die Geschichte vom mysteriösen Verschwinden und Wiederfinden eines wertvollen Edelsteins niederzuschreiben, und beginnt so:
In the first part of ROBINSON CRUSOE, at page one hundred and twenty-nine, you will find it thus written:
"Now I saw, though too late, the Folly of beginning a Work before we count the Cost, and before we judge rightly of our own Strength to go through with it."
Only yesterday, I opened my ROBINSON CRUSOE at that place. Only this morning (May twenty-first, Eighteen hundred and fifty), came my lady's nephew, Mr. Franklin Blake, and held a short conversation with me, as follows:—
Two hours have passed since Mr. Franklin left me. As soon as his back was turned, I went to my writing desk to start the story. There I have sat helpless (in spite of my abilities) ever since; seeing what Robinson Crusoe saw, as quoted above—namely, the folly of beginning a work before we count the cost, and before we judge rightly of our own strength to go through with it. Please to remember, I opened the book by accident, at that bit, only the day before I rashly undertook the business now in hand; and, allow me to ask—if THAT isn't prophecy, what is?
[…] such a book as ROBINSON CRUSOE never was written, and never will be written again. I have tried that book for years—generally in combination with a pipe of tobacco—and I have found it my friend in need in all the necessities of this mortal life. When my spirits are bad—ROBINSON CRUSOE. When I want advice—ROBINSON CRUSOE. In past times when my wife plagued me; in present times when I have had a drop too much—ROBINSON CRUSOE. I have worn out six stout ROBINSON CRUSOES with hard work in my service. On my lady's last birthday she gave me a seventh. I took a drop too much on the strength of it; and ROBINSON CRUSOE put me right again. Price four shillings and sixpence, bound in blue, with a picture into the bargain.
  • In Robinson Crusoe selbst findet sich eine Szene nach dem gleichen Modell:
I went, directed by Heaven no doubt; for in this Chest I found a Cure, both for Soul and Body, I open’d the Chest, and found what I look’d for, viz. the Tobacco; and as the few Books, I had sav’d, lay there too, I took out one of the Bibles which I mention’d before, […] and brought both that and the Tobacco with me to the Table.
What Use to make of the Tobacco, I knew not, as to my Distemper, or whether it was good for it or no; but I try’d several Experiments with it, as if I was resolv’d it should hit one Way or other: …
In the Interval of this Operation, I took up the Bible and began to read, but my Head was too much disturb’d with the Tobacco to bear reading, at least that Time; only having open’d the Book casually, the first Words that occurr’d to me were these, Call on me in the Day of Trouble, and I will deliver, and thou shalt glorify me.*
The Words were very apt to my Case, and made some Impression upon my Thoughts at the Time of reading them, tho’ not so much as they did afterwards; for as for being deliver’d, the Word had no Sound, as I may say, to me; the Thing was so remote, so impossible in my Apprehension of Things, […] however, […] I mused upon them very often. […] but before I lay down, I did what I never had done in all my Life, I kneel’d down and pray’d to God to fulfil the Promise to me, that if I call’d upon him in the Day of Trouble, he would deliver me; …

---2. Warum sollen wir über das Postsäkulare reden?

Zwei Eindrücke von der "Rückkehr der Religion", 1979 und 2005

Die Rückkehr der Religion in der 'Dritten Welt':
  1. Many here and some in Iran are waiting for and hoping for the moment when secularization will at last come back to the fore and reveal the good, old type of revolution we have always known.
    -- (Michel Foucault, “The Spirit of a World without Spirit” [1979] in Politics, Philosophy, Culture. Interviews and other Writings 1977-1984, ed. Lawrence D. Kritzman. New York / London: Routledge, 1988, p. 224.)
  2. There’ll come a moment when the phenomenon that we are trying to apprehend and which has so fascinated us – the revolutionary experience itself – will die out. There was literally a light that lit up in all of them and which bathed all of them at the same time. … what we witnessed was not the result of an alliance, for example, between various political groups. Nor was it the result of a compromise between social classes that, in the end, each giving into [sic] the other on this or that, came to an agreement to claim this or that thing. Not at all. Something quite different has happened. A phenomenon has traversed the people and will one day stop. …
    -- (Michel Foucault, “The Spirit of a World without Spirit” [1979] p. 219.)
  3. In rising up, the Iranians said to themselves – and this perhaps is the soul of the uprising: “Of course, we have to change this regime and get rid of this man … . But, above all, we have to change ourselves. Our way of being, our relationship with others, with things, … .” I believe that it is here that Islam played a role. It may be that one or other of its obligations, one or other of its codes exerted a certain fascination. But above all, in relation to the way of life that was theirs, religion for them was like the promise and guarantee of finding something that would radically change their subjectivity.
    -- (Michel Foucault, “The Spirit of a World without Spirit” [1979], pp. 217-8.)
Die Rückkehr der Religion in Europa und Nordamerika:
  1. When Jacques Derrida died I was called by a reporter who wanted to know what would succeed high theory and the triumvirate of race, gender, and class as the center of intellectual energy in the academy. I answered like a shot: religion.
    -- (Stanley Fish, “One University, Under God?” The Chronicle of Higher Education 51:18 (2005), p. C4]
  2. Announce a course with “religion” in the title, and you will have an overflow population. …
    And those who come will not only be seeking knowledge; they will be seeking guidance and inspiration, and many of them will believe that religion – one religion, many religions, religion in general – will provide them.
    Are we ready?
    We had better be, because that is now where the action is. …
    -- (Stanley Fish, “One University, Under God?” The Chronicle of Higher Education 51:18 (2005), p. C4]

Mögliche Einstellungen zur neu-behaupteten Präsenz der Religion

  • Erkennen einer globalen Tendenz: 'der säkulare Sonderweg des Westens nähert sich seinem Ende'.
  • Widerstand. Reaffirmation säkularer Positionen.
  • Pragmatische (Ein)Sicht: nach dem 11. September 2001 und generell in multikulturellen Gesellschaften ist die Beschäftigung mit Religion eine pragmatische Notwendigkeit.
  • Souveräne literaturhistorische Makro-Sicht: Pendelbewegungen historischer Epochen.
  • Das säkulare Selbstverständnis des Westens ist ein Missverständnis, unter der säkularen Oberfläche hat immer schon ein wesentlich religiöses Substrat verborgen, das wir nur nicht recht erkannt haben.

Vorschlag einer vorläufigen Einschätzung

Der Begriff des Postsäkularen bildet sich (allmählich) in der Auseinandersetzung derartiger Positionen (vergleichbar der Diskussion um die Postmoderne; vgl. auch Jürgen Habermas' frühe Befürchtungen in "Die Moderne - ein unvollendetes Projekt", 1980).

---3. Wie weit soll die postsäkulare Perspektive auf die (englische) Literatur(wissenschaft) gehen?

  • Communis opinio der Literaturwissenschaft: Literatur tritt im 19. Jahrhundert in Funktionen der Religion ein. Dies ist ein Säkularisierungsphänomen. Es bleiben religiöse Residuen, die noch nicht hinreichend säkularisiert sind, aber langsam verschwinden werden.
Beispiel: James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
MARCH 20. Long talk with Cranly on the subject of my revolt. ... Attacked me on the score of love for one’s mother. Tried to imagine his mother: cannot. Told me once, in a moment of thoughtlessness, his father was sixty-one when he was born. Can see him. Strong farmer type. Pepper and salt suit. Square feet. Unkempt, grizzled beard. ... But his mother? Very young or very old? Hardly the first. If so, Cranly would not have spoken as he did. Old then. Probably, and neglected. Hence Cranly’s despair of soul: the child of exhausted loins.
MARCH 21, MORNING. Thought this in bed last night but was too lazy and free to add to it. Free, yes. The exhausted loins are those of Elizabeth and Zacchary. Then he is the precursor. Item: he eats chiefly belly bacon and dried figs. Read locusts and wild honey. Also, when thinking of him, saw always a stern severed head or death mask as if outlined on a grey curtain or veronica. Decollation they call it in the fold. Puzzled for the moment by saint John at the Latin gate. What do I see? A decollated percursor trying to pick the lock.
MARCH 21, NIGHT. Free. Soul free and fancy free. Let the dead bury the dead. Ay. And let the dead marry the dead.
James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, 1916.

  • Weitergehende Perspektiven:
    • Wie genau übernimmt die Literatur Funktionen der Religion sowohl im Erziehungssystem wie in der öffentlichen Auseinandersetzung?
    • Wie kommt es, dass Literaten (und Literaturwissenschaftler) anfangen, Bewegungen zu bilden?
    • Wie kommt es eigentlich, dass wir Literatur interpretieren? (Vgl. die Geschichte des Textbegriffs,
    • Ist die Literaturgeschichte insgesamt eine säkularistische Fiktion des 19. Jahrhunderts?
Vgl. Hippolyte Taine, The History of English Literature, vol. 1 1863, "Introduction".
HISTORY, within a hundred years in Germany, and within sixty years in France, has undergone a transformation owing to a study of literatures.
The discovery has been made that a literary work is not a mere play of the imagination, the isolated caprice of an excited brain, but a transcript of contemporary manners and customs and the sign of a particular state of intellect. The conclusion derived from this is that, through literary monuments, we can retrace the way in which men felt and thought many centuries ago. …
We have meditated over these ways of feeling and thinking and have accepted them as facts of prime significance. We have found that they were dependent on most important events, that they explain these, and that these explain them, and that henceforth it was necessary to give them their place in history, and one of the highest. This place has been assigned to them, and hence all is changed in history—the aim, the method, the instrumentalities, and the conceptions of laws and of causes. It is this change as now going on, and which must continue to go on, that is here attempted to be set forth.

---4. Die paradoxe Säkularität der Literatur

'Postsäkulare Perspektiven auf die Englische Literatur' könnte heißen:
  • Für die Zeit vor 1800 eine Archäologie der Literatur, die sich von den nationalen und säkularistischen Mustern der Literaturgeschichtsschreibung des 19. Jahrhunderts löst.
  • Für die Zeit nach 1800 eine Genealogie der literarischen und literaturwissenschaftlichen Praxis, die die Integration von vormals säkular wie vormals religiös codierten Elementen zusammen in den Blick nimmt...
  • ... und die auf diese Weise zeigen kann, wie die Literatur seit dem 19. Jahrhundert in den Stand einer paradoxe Säkularität eingetreten ist, die allen Teilnehmern sowohl ein Pathos der Säkularisierung, wie ein Pathos der (Re-)Sakralisierung als Optionen bereitstellt.